Self-Care for Parents


As a parent, there is a lot to juggle.

Getting everyone fed, to school, picked up, driven around, fed again, and to sleep…

And even more to do if your child has special needs….

To finally have a few moments to ourselves.

It’s possible we didn’t have any time for ourselves all day.

It’s so easy to be focused on our children, and not ourselves.

I’m certainly guilty of this.

Putting my needs aside to take care of everyone else.

After all it is in our nature as mothers (and parents), to nurture others.

But the truth is, taking care of ourselves may be one of the most important things we do.

We must have our cup filled up to fill up others.

And we must stay healthy and have energy to care for them.

And we want to live long lives so we can be there for our children… even more so when they have special needs.

For me, I don’t have a child with special needs, but I’ve struggled with anxiety (and depression), mostly anxiety. But if the depression hits it’s bad. So I’m best to stay on top of things.

See, I have very similar underlying biochemistry to children with autism and ADHD, mainly methylation issues, but for me it manifests as anxiety and depression.

I have worked for years on the diet and biochemistry part and I’m doing very well. But life is life and when it throws a curveball, I have to pull out all the strategies I can. I don’t struggle daily, but I do know what it feels like to struggle so I can relate to other moms, and I need to do self-care so I don’t fall into that.

Whether we have anxiety or depression, we all need self-care.

Self-care can:

  • Nourish our body
  • Calm our mind
  • Put our body in a more healing state
  • Help us have more energy and vitality

Self-compassion and Self-care

Personally, I needed to learn how to get to self-compassion. I didn’t have examples of it growing up, so I was really at a loss of what it really was.

After years of therapy, I still couldn’t get to the esoteric concept of “self-compassion” without a tangible path. For me, that became self-care.

I realized I could “practice” self-compassion through acts of self-love… and that I could express through these self-care strategies.

I see it like this… Self-care -> self-love -> self-compassion

And self-care has the added benefit of helping us heal and be healthier… and likely happier.

Some strategies are VERY simple because they need to be. When someone is so depressed they don’t want to do anything for themselves, the simple act of brushing one’s teeth or taking a shower is a sign of self-love. And should be celebrated. Not shamed.

Other strategies are more long-term health oriented.

Maybe you don’t have anxiety or depression, but you want to know how to take good care of yourself with good self-care strategies because you want to have energy and vitality to live a rewarding life and help your child.

Making time for yourself

Maybe like you, I’m focusing on self-care at this time. Focusing on my physical health and mental health, my emotional and spiritual health.

I’ve come to realize that after 20 years of waiting for life to slow down so I could take care of ME that it’s not going to slow down!

So I’ve learned, I have to PRIORITIZE ME!

I consider this time a luxury (that I’m grateful for), but it is also a necessity (in order to do what I do).

Sometimes, I feel guilty…

…Taking “too much” time for myself.

But I’ve learned…

…If you want to do big things in the world, you need a lot of energy and vitality, so you need to take care of yourself.

Let’s face it, whether healing your child or helping others, it takes a lot of energy.

We all know the sentiment, “Put your mask on before assisting others” or

“You cannot pour from an empty cup.”

It’s true. We need to have energy and capacity to help others. Taking time for ourselves makes us GOOD moms/humans, not selfish ones.

And we need energy and capacity to create.

Instead of self-care as a luxury, consider it a necessity.



Only you can prioritize you.

Appreciate everything you do for yourself. No act of self-care is too small.

I think self-care is so fundamental, it is a step in my Nourishing Hope nutrition program for parents.

But it doesn’t matter if you are a parent or not, whether this is personal or

professional, self-care is important.

Self-Care Strategies

I have a long and growing list of self-care strategies I have used over the years to help me when life gets hard.

And I’ve created a Self-Care for Parents guide that I will be sharing with you this year. It’s divided into 12 different categories of self-care. Some of my favorites are:

  1. Nourish your body
  2. Beauty and expression
  3. Nature

If you’d like to receive my Self-Care Guide when it comes out, you can let me know here (and you’ll get my 6 Nutrition Essentials in the meantime).

Here are 7 of my favorite strategies for Self-Care:


Focus on my breathing and the present moment. This is not a small task. It’s a powerful one. It will always be available to you. I just needed this one yesterday… and today, now that I think about it. Breathing is easy to access in a moment of stress.

Buy or cut flowers.

I love beautiful things. They make me happy. Self-care includes exposing yourself to beauty. Spring is on us and there are lilacs and camellias outside. So I put together a vase to make me happy.

Touch and talk to a tree.

I just did this yesterday when I was clipping flowers. I walked around, touch the trees and talked to them. I love trees. Truly, what’s more grounded – and grounding – then trees? I find it very soothing.

Drink water.

I bought 2 one-liter glass water bottles that I fill up at the beginning of the day. I’m reminded to drink it, and I have a good understanding of how much water I’ve had for the day.

Eat something healthy.

As a nutritionist, nourishing myself is a key part of self-care. I focus on boosting the nutritional value of each meal. Choose anything that’s nourishing for you. Sometimes it’s a soup, other times it’s a bowl of greens for me. There are many choices you can make each day.

Watercolor painting by Julie

Painting. I took up watercolor painting. I tend towards anxiety so I took up coloring a few years ago. I just decided to try coloring with watercolor paints and now I’m dabbling in watercolor paint. I love the feeling of the brush. It’s meditative like coloring and there is more ease in the brush strokes. Creative endeavors clear my mind so I can create. It’s meditative, a mindfulness practice.

Dancing or rolling out.

I like to add a body centered activity to my day. It gets me out of my head, since nutritional biochemistry is so cerebral, and helps me be more balanced. I love “poi” a form of fire dancing (that can be done without fire). But more recently I’ve just been dancing or even rolling out on a foam roller. My poi teacher, Isa Isaacs taught me this one… to do any body-centered practice every day.

Do you have self-care activities you do?

Make a list of ways you can nourish yourself. Add to this list and use it to remind yourself of what you can do when you’re in the need of self- care.

I hope you have a chance to create a list of creative endeavors you’d like to accomplish, or begin one right now.

And share them on our blog.

Julie Matthews is a Certified Nutrition Consultant who received her master’s degree in medical nutrition with distinction from Arizona State University. She is also a published nutrition researcher and has specialized in complex neurological conditions, particularly autism spectrum disorders and ADHD for over 20 years. Julie is the award winning author of Nourishing Hope for Autism, co-author of a study proving the efficacy of nutrition and dietary intervention for autism published in the peer-reviewed journal, Nutrients, and also the founder of Download her free guide, 12 Nutrition Steps to Better Health, Learning, and Behavior.


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